IAEA Mission Commends Malta’s management of radioactive sources and waste

28th October 2022
Sheryl Miles

An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team of experts said Malta demonstrated commitment to the safe and secure management of radioactive sources and radioactive waste.

The review team noted the efforts by the Maltese authorities in this regard given the human resources available, and made recommendations to improve performance of the national programme.

The Integrated Review Service for Radioactive Waste and Spent Fuel Management, Decommissioning and Remediation (ARTEMIS) team concluded a five-day mission to Malta on 21 October 2022.

The mission was carried out at the request of the Government of Malta and hosted by the Commission for the Protection from Ionising and Non-Ionising Radiation of Malta, which is responsible for authorising and regulating the use of ionising and non-ionising radiation to benefit people and the environment.

The team, which comprised experts from Albania and Cyprus, as well as three IAEA staff members, held meetings with officials from the Ministry for Inclusion, Voluntary Organisations and Consumer Rights, and from the Commission for the Protection from Ionising and Non-Ionising Radiation of Malta. The review mission was attended by two observers: one from the European Commission and one from the Portuguese Environment Agency.

“Malta is to be congratulated for its safe radioactive waste management and for seeking continuous improvement through the ARTEMIS review process,” said Peter Johnston, Director of the IAEA Division for Radiation, Transport and Waste Safety.

ARTEMIS reviews provide independent expert advice from an international team of specialists convened by the IAEA. Reviews are based on the IAEA Safety Standards and technical guidance as well as international good practices.

The review to Malta aimed to evaluate the national framework and programme for safe management of radioactive waste, and the implementation and regulation of the programme. The review addressed the challenges associated with disposing small volumes of radioactive waste and repatriating radioactive material detected in transhipment through Malta.

Malta utilises radiation sources in medical and industrial applications and ensures the safe management of radioactive materials that are detected occasionally in shipments entering its ports.

Review team leader Michael Tzortzis said, “This review was specifically tailored to address the challenges faced by a small island country having only small volumes of radioactive materials and wastes.”

Tzortzis, Labour Inspection Officer (Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety) at the Department of Labour Inspection of the Ministry of Labour, Welfare and Social Insurance of Cyprus, added, “The team considered the issues associated with the potential arrival of radioactive materials at ports and other challenges that – being from a small island country – I am familiar with.”

The ARTEMIS team noted that Malta has established a centralised storage facility for disused sealed radioactive sources and radioactive waste and plans to continue to explore and evaluate options for safe and secure long-term management of radioactive waste.

The team also identified recommendations and suggestions to maintain and further improve the safe and responsible management of radioactive waste and disused sealed radioactive sources in Malta.

Recommendations included for the government of Malta to ensure that sufficient human and financial resources are available, particularly for the regulatory body to acquire and maintain appropriate competence to be able to perform its regulatory functions, ensuring the unimpeded implementation of the Radioactive Waste Management Programme.

“The Radiation Commission greatly appreciated the opportunity to discuss how Malta is managing its radioactive waste,” said Paul Brejza, Executive Secretary of the Commission for the Protection from Ionising and Non-Ionising Radiation of Malta. “The ARTEMIS report will enable us to further develop our radioactive waste management practices.”

The final mission report will be provided to the Government of Malta in around two months.

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